By andrew O’Day and Kayce Ataiyero
Maryland Democrats reacted coolly Tuesday to Gov. Parris Glendening’s decision to distance himself from President Clinton by canceling a planned fund-raiser with the president.
While most politicians said they understood the governor’s decision to keep the president and his troubles at arm’s length, some accused Glendening of being a traitor to the leader of his party.
“I think [Glendening] could have done it a little more delicately than the way he did it,” said former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat who is running for comptroller.
“It just seems that after he’d been [Clinton’s] friend for a long period of time, he said, `Well, now that you’re in trouble, I’m going to turn my back on you.’ I don’t think that’s too wise politically,” said Schaefer.
But while he does not believe in turning his back on a friend “just because he’s been hurt and disfavored,” Schaefer, like many Democrats, said he could “understand and I can support the governor’s concern.”
Glendening on Saturday sharply criticized Clinton after the president admitted to an “inappropriate” relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The governor — who also ducked out of an appearance with the president Tuesday at Pine Crest Elementary School in Silver Spring — canceled plans for a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser with Clinton on Oct. 2.
Glendening said Clinton’s actions in the Lewinsky affair were “wrong” and that he did not want to send “mixed signals about what personal responsibility means” to his 18-year-old son.
But the governor still supports Clinton’s policy and recognizes that the president has helped to get the country moving forward, deputy press secretary Michelle Byrnie said Tuesday.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he is “not prepared to give up” on the president.
“Here’s this man striving to bring peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. And he’s doing so much. The economy is doing very, very well. Why would you want to give up on this man?” he asked.
Miller noted that congressmen, senators and governors have bigger constituencies to respond to than he does as a state senator from Prince George’s County. That could have affected their decisions because they have more people to answer to, he said.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s campaign office says the governor’s actions will not affect its campaign strategy.
“Gov. Glendening does what he wants to do,” said Mike Morrill, Mikulski’s campaign manager. “The governor has made his choice. The senator has already come out and said what President Clinton did was wrong. Sen. Mikulski will reserve further comment until she has seen the entire report.”
Walter T. Kuebler, a Democrat running for Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District seat, said he intends to “run close to and not away from President Clinton’s record, his accomplishments and his character.”
“I think [Clinton] was forced to lie” about his relationship with Lewinsky, Kuebler said. “It wasn’t cool that he lied … the fact is, it just isn’t that serious of a matter.”
Kuebler said he is disgusted with Glendening for turning his back on the president.
But Michael J. Serabian Sr., a Democrat running in the 1st Congressional District, said he supports the governor’s decision to keep the president at arm’s length. He said he thinks Clinton made a mistake and Serabian said he will not compromise his moral standards by involving the president in his campaign.
“I think the president should take a 90-day leave of absence and the vice president should take over the government,” Serabian said.
While most politicians said they could understand the governor’s actions, at least one said he knew where the president was coming from.
Kenneth T. Bosley, another Democrat in the 2nd District race, said that as a teacher of biology, shop and military science at various schools, he has had to ward off advances from some female students, telling them not to put their arms around him. Young women can pursue someone in a position of power, he said.
Bosley said he will neither pass judgment on Clinton nor say whether the president should resign, until independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s report comes out.
“Regardless of Clinton’s personal life … I feel he is a capable person,” said Bosley, adding that he plans to show support for the president in his campaigning. — Capital News Service reporters Matthew Chin and Tracy Fercho contributed to this story from Washington.